Worst nightmare ever

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Do you know what three weeks on the road with just a camper trailer and your immediate family can do?

It can give you perspective.

And it lets you focus on what’s important.

I know for some people the idea of a long road trip with two small children would be their worst nightmare ever.

But for me, it has been an inspiration. I’ve come to the realisation that I’m not as good at this ‘simple, uncluttered life’ as I thought. In fact, I’ve got some work to do.

My husband and I just got back from a three week road trip with our two Montessori sons. We travelled north for the Australian winter school holidays, seeking warmer weather.

But what I found instead was a whole different ball game.

It wasn’t about the weather, or not working, or even spending quality time together as a family (although all of those things were great).

It was about simplicity.

How simple is life on the road when you are camping? Our camping kit consists of four plates, four bowls, four cups, one frypan, one saucepan, a one-burner gas stove and some sleeping bags and pillows. After each meal, someone would do the dishes (we all took it in turns) – and that’s it. Jobs done for the day. Time to swim, read, climb trees, play chess (both boys learned how to play on this trip), bushwalk. No more housework to do!

After about three days I realised why I felt so relaxed.

And it got me thinking about the need to keep things simple in our lives.

I’m a big fan of ‘decluttering’. My house is fairly minimalist and certainly the boys’ rooms are, with no toy boxes and all of their toys and books on open shelves, Montessori-style. I’m forever taking car-loads of stuff to our local op-shop (where does it all come from?) as I like clean, open spaces. And it’s certainly what our boys are used to as well, at their Montessori school.

Dr Montessori’s take on the need for an uncluttered environment has been supported by recent research conducted at Princeton University. The research proves that an uncluttered environment helps a child to focus and process information, whereas physical clutter in our surroundings competes for our attention.

It’s why our Montessori classrooms don’t look like this:

cluttered classrom

And instead look more like this:

uncluttered classroom

I know which classroom I’d rather spend time in!

But it’s not just about physical clutter.

I was reminded about the simple things by my son one day on our trip.

We’d spent the day on an island off the coast of northern Australia. We’d caught the ferry there and back, spent the day on the beach with friends and the boys had enjoyed gelato ice-creams and fish and chips. A good day all round, I thought.

That night as I was tucking my 7 year old son into his sleeping bag, we were chatting about the day and he told me what his favourite part of the day was: “Standing up on the bus on the way back to the ferry,” he said. “I’ve never stood up on a bus before.”


The simple things.

It was school holidays and at the end of that day it had felt like every tourist on the island was making their way to the ferry terminal at the same time as us, hence the standing room only on the bus. But what I’d seen as a minor inconvenience was actually the highlight of the trip for my son!

The simple things alright.

It’s all about perspective, isn’t it?

It’s like housework, or ‘chores’ as some people like to call it.

We adults often find housework a chore, but I kid you not, my boys fight over who is going to do the mopping each week (an item for our next family meeting, I just realised).

For them it’s not a chore. Not at all.

They feel like they are doing something important, contributing to family life, and doing something the adults usually do. A simple job that might seem boring to us – they find a challenge!

I am often asked what is the best way to be more ‘Montessori’ at home and my short answer can be covered by three things – freedom within limits (freedom to move, make decisions and meet their own needs for independence), order and consistency (this is where a decluttered home helps enormously) – and perhaps the most surprising element – beauty.

Dr Montessori believed that beauty and harmony go hand in hand – and I would add ‘simplicity’ to that as well.

An uncluttered mind brings us serenity, and an uncluttered home brings us tranquility.

Getting out into nature and focusing on what it is important, is a great way to declutter the mind.

Now, I’m off to declutter my house – again!

See you next week.

PS: I cover both decluttering the mind and decluttering the home as part of my crash course for Montessori parents ‘The Power of the Prepared Parent: A Montessori Crash Course’. Enrolments will be opening again soon, so if you missed out last time you can join the notification list here to be the first to find out when spots become available.
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